Gwinnett Ethics, Inc., has filed an ethics complaint against councilman Mike Sabbagh as a result of his "violation of the city’s code of ethics as defined in Article IV, Section 3-51(a) of the Code of Ordinances," according to the official complaint.
In at least one appearance before the Marietta City Council, according to the document, Sabbagh attempted to use his position as a Snellville City Council member to "secure special privileges and exemptions for others."
The complaint stems from an appearance Sabbagh made at a Marietta council meeting on Oct. 12, 2011, in which he spoke on behalf of a friend of his, Waleed "Lee" Jaraysi.
Jaraysi built a wedding hall that residents of Marietta referred to as an "eyesore." The building was scheduled for demolition, but Jaraysi, after investing millions into it, requested a halt on that.
Cobb Superior Court granted the demolition order back in 2010, but the story goes back even further than that. Jaraysi was granted permission to build an 8,000-square-foot wedding hall in 2005, but he built it into a 24,000-square-foot complex instead. It's been tied up in courts ever since, according to the Mariettta Daily Journal.
The video of Sabbagh's appearance is available here. (Scroll to minute 37:00.)
According to the official complaint, Sabbagh "appeared before the Marietta City Council with his Snellville City Council member badge prominently displayed on his lapel." He also stated that he was a professor at Southern Polytech University, which the complaint says is untrue.
However, Sabbagh claims that he taught classes as an adjunct professor from 2000-2006 or 2007.
"I was simply trying to convince the city of Marietta to allow the owner of the building some extra time, as the economy was hard," Sabbagh told Snellville Patch. "I didn’t go in there as an authority figure, I went in there as a citizen. They knew who I was."
Snellville City Council already pursued an ethics inquiry back in January, but after an official apology from Sabbagh, they dropped the matter in order to prevent further embarrassment to the city, according to Councilman Dave Emanuel.
"With all of the political activities in Snellville, I think it’s really unfortunate that we have something new for the people to contend with," said Emanuel. "I’ve got mixed emotions [regarding the complaint] because, on the one hand, if someone violates the code of ethics they should be held accountable, but it makes the mess in Snellville even worse."
Gwinnett Ethics has requested that the city launch an official investigation into Sabbagh's conduct, and if they determine he did violate Snellville's Code of Ethics, that penalties be imposed on him, which can include asking for his resignation.
Update Dec. 14, 8:30 p.m.
Councilman Mike Sabbagh issued the following statement as a follow-up to this original story:
"I believe in open government and that every elected official is accountable to the public. The right of citizens to file an action is one I support. However, having read the filing; it contains mistakes and it appears that filer is not aware that this matter was taken up over a year ago by the Snellville City Council. I trust the people of Snellville and believe they know me and my record as a city council member and I have every confidence that this process can be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner."